Archive for the 'Academia' Category

Driving too slow

I went to a grad school workshop today (not inspiring). And then I read this from Joel Spolsky, posted a week and a half ago on Joel on Software. The combination of the two is pretty bad.

You see, if you can’t whiz through the easy stuff at 100 m.p.h., you’re never gonna get the advanced stuff.

I think what JS is saying applies to a lot more than writing code, getting an A in Calculus, trading bonds, or getting hired. I read this as JS believes that people who work too hard at the basics are in the wrong field. I’m not sure where exactly the basics end and the advanced work begins in the Humanities and Social Sciences, but I know I’m working way too hard. JS’s words are plenty helpful for the person hiring, or the person who is an ace applicant, but for the rest of us? For those of us who didn’t get A+ in our last 20 undergrad courses?

The speaker at the workshop kept going over how important it is to reapply if at first rejected: from funding, from schools, etc. That if it’s where you really want to be you’ll get it eventually, through tweaking your materials, focusing or shifting a research interest, by finding a more appropriate advisor. But I wonder, how many years can a person can keep going through it? I mean, don’t we all have student loans that have to be paid back? We can’t just keep reapplying to grad school, hoping we’ll get in sooner or later…

The F-word again: what’s the diff between ‘egalitarianism’ and ‘feminism’?

An egalitarian believes in equality for all people: equal opportunity, equal access to resources, regardless of their gender, age, skin colour, language, culture, sexual orientation, religion, ability, etc.

A feminist shares this belief but takes it further and says that women’s oppression must be acknowledged and eliminated before an egalitarian society can exist. We cannot discuss ‘equality’ without discussing women’s lack of equality. Thus, a feminist is a specific type of egalitarian (thought ‘feminist’ can be broken down further, into different ‘types’ of feminists), and feminism is a branch of egalitarianism. Of course there will be overlap: many feminists will also be LGBTQ activists, many LGBTQ activists will also be animal rights activists, many animal rights activists will also be feminists and so on go the circles.

December 6 Memorial: Fourteen Not Forgotten

Yesterday was December 6. It was the sixteenth anniversary of the Montréal Massacre that took place at École Polytechnique in Montréal, Québec, Canada. On this day, 14 women were massacred by a man with a semi automatic because he believed they had taken what should have been his place as a student in the faculty of engineering. Thirteen of these women were engineering students. One was a staff person in the budget department. Other people were injured and there were suicides in the days that followed. It was tragic.

Have you heard about this before? Does anyone else mark this horrible happening?

I remember when it happened. I was a high school senior and I remember being in shock. I remember hearing that women had been killed but I don’t remember really understanding the killer’s reason – that they were all FEMINISTS and for that they would be murdered. I don’t remember making the connection that there was more to this murder – I live near Detroit, I heard about murders all the time – or – so – I – thought. Nobody explained it to me. No one talked about it. All we said was holy – oh – my – uggh – wow – awful – NOOOOOO and then carried on. It was just another murder, right? What was feminism and what did it have to do with dying?

Shortly after this I changed my plans from aerospace engineering (I had wanted to design rockets until I hit grade 12 and discovered Art…. ) but I wonder if the Montreal Massacre was an influence on that decision. When I think back, I can’t remember that well, but I know I certainly didn’t want to be in a position of danger. I had never thought of non-traditional choices as being life-threatening but this was proof that life as a woman was dangerous. Really really dangerous.

It’s important to me to remember these women and this event each year now, since becoming more educated about the interlocking issues of what happened that day. It’s not just about women in engineering. It’s not just about men’s anger and frustration about losing privilege and power. It’s not just about women being victims of violence. It’s not just about women’s access to the World. It’s about all of these.

So this week I participated in a drive to raise funds and donations for a grassroots women’s homeless shelter as they work toward ending violence against women. In one of my classes I listened to The Wyrd Sister’s This Memory , and last night I went to the vigil on my campus.

I don’t know what happened with the planning this year because I don’t know the organizers but I’d really like to make a couple of points that I believe are very very very important regarding this event.

  • Please say the women’s names correctly. This is very important.

You dishonour them by not learning their names. If you are not able to pronounce the French, please find someone who can. If no one can be found then please do your best but don’t laugh when you stumble over them. It’s not funny. Please practice.

  • Please include a moment of silence. This is very important.

Yes it’s cold here – that’s why it’s called Canada – but to stand outside for one minute of silence out of respect to these and all the other women who have died in senseless murders because they are women is what makes the ceremony a memorial. Please don’t turn this event into a show without substance.

After the reading of names outside at the memorial we returned to the reception. Walking back, the group I was with figured the moment of silence must be planned for indoors – and that an error had been made on the program. When we finally realized that the moment had been forgotten we pulled a group together and returned outdoors to the memorial for an improptu vigil. We made a circle between the 14 pillars representing these 14 women and held hands while one woman read the list of names. We had a minute of silence and then went on our ways, sad, but warmed.

  • Please – and this is very important, so very very important you wouldn’t believe – please don’t say his name.

Four times in the service they said his name. The women’s names were read once. By saying his name you immortalize him. What he did was wrong – so very wrong – don’t do him the honour of allowing his name to be remembered. Let him be forgotten and let the women be remembered. And don’t you see that saying his name presents this massacre as a random act? Like he was one psychopath with a gun who did something awful but that it could never happen again? He said on his suicide note that he knew what he was doing, that he was not a mad killer. Do you see that it could have happened anywhere, those women could have been any of us? Women are victims of violence every day. Women are at risk in their own homes, from their supposed loved-ones. This is NOT an isolated event. This man killed these women but violence against women happens every single day. This is gendercide.

I’m glad there was a memorial held and that I was able to attend. Some of the speeches were well spoken, particularly Brian Masse who pointed out that Canada still has much progress to make in terms of making itself safe for women. It seems that these criticisms overshadow the positive aspects of the service. It is only my intention that the critique help with planning future memorials.

The women’s names are below. Please read them as best you can, and please take a moment to reflect on why they died, and the potential that has been lost, now going into what would have been a second generation. Consider also those 13, including 4 men, who were injured but survived the massacre, and those women who attend the École Polytechnique’s engineering program today. Think about the families and friends that were also affected, and the community, and the country. Think about your own life, and the violence you have experienced or been witness to and think about what you can do so that it ends. And then, please, do something.

The Fourteen Not Forgotten

Geneviève Bergeron, 21, was a 2nd year scholarship student in civil engineering.

Hélène Colgan, 23, was in her final year of mechanical engineering and planned to take her master’s degree.

Nathalie Croteau, 23, was in her final year of mechanical engineering.

Barbara Daigneault, 22, was in her final year of mechanical engineering and held a teaching assistantship.

Anne-Marie Edward, 21, was a first year student in chemical engineering.

Maud Haviernick, 29, was a 2nd year student in engineering materials, a branch of metallurgy, and a graduate in environmental design.

Barbara Maria Klucznik, 31, was a 2nd year engineering student specializing in engineering materials.

Maryse Laganière, 25, worked in the budget department of the Polytechnique.

Maryse Leclair, 23, was a 4th year student in engineering materials.

Anne-Marie Lemay, 27, was a 4th year student in mechanical engineering.

Sonia Pelletier, 28, was to graduate the next day in mechanical engineering. She was awarded a degree posthumously.

Michèle Richard, 21, was a 2nd year student in engineering materials.

Annie St-Arneault, 23, was a mechanical engineering student.

Annie Turcotte, 21, was a first year student in engineering materials.

Podcasts for Learning

I went to a session today on the how-to and why university faculty should incorporate audiocasts into their classrooms. What better way to share this info thought I then by creating an audiocast covering the major topics of the workshop. Read more »

The Myth of Mammy in The Bondwoman’s Narrative by Hannah Crafts

The novel The Bondwoman’s Narrative recounts the journey of a fugitive slave woman named Hannah, from enslavement in North Carolina to freedom in New Jersey. She struggles through a life filled with cruel masters, lost-and-found-again friendships, and basic physical survival. Readers will find her positive outlook inspiring, but the amount of coincidental good fortune Hannah encounters sometimes makes the novel less than plausible. Of particular interest is the novel’s representation of Mammy. The Bondwoman’s Narrative has many illustrations of this cultural icon, particularly the main character Hannah. Careful examination reveals however, that the people who stand in Hannah’s path to freedom or who contribute to her oppression frequently become victims of misfortune themselves.

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Audio Activism

Third wave feminism is characterized by its activism. Although some still argue that there is ‘no third wave’ I see plenty of proof peeking up all over that a re-emergence of feminism is upon us and hopefully this will be accompanied by progress towards gender equality.

Audiocasting is an ideal tool for combining third wave issues with a people’s media. This audiocast addresses some issues surrounding opportunities for activism and one woman’s experience in social justice issues and as a nun.


Download this audiocast now:

What is feminism?

This semester is challenging me to come to terms with this beast called “feminism”. Between papers identifying whether or not suffrage has made a difference in women’s lives to critiquing the third wave I waver between thinking the movement is salvageable and becomeing enthused with reform to seeing the idea as too far gone a struggle and trying to decide how to get where we need to go, and how to include the good parts of feminism while discarding the parts that impede progress. I came across this which speaks strongly to to me although I don’t know if I agree with her.

    “Feminism isn’t an employment agency for women;
    it’s an alternative way of ordering the social space,
    in which women are the prototype rather than men.
    It is based on collaboration rather than competition.
    As a youngster, I still remember my feeling of joy
    that one could look at the earth differently.
    That’s feminism: everything is differently oriented.
    Seeing the same world through different eyes.”
    ~ Ursuala Franklin

The Problem With Feminism

The use of the term “feminist” inhibits the goals of the movement for equality. In her article “Why I’m a Feminist,” Lauren Anderson describes some of the many negative stereotypes associated with “feminism” and “feminists” like “hairy-legged, bitchy, [and] lesbian” (Anderson 32). According to this stereotype, feminists are destructive, hateful, selfish and angry. These stereotypes are created and reinforced in and by our culture, and are very difficult to change. The semantics of a word are determined by its usage. Regardless if a dictionary or encyclopaedia defines feminism as the “belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes” (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language qtd. at, popular use interprets feminism as a radical movement, full of militant extremists.

Some self-defined feminists choose to struggle against this popular definition, in a quest to open the eyes and ears of society to the important work of the women’s movements. They claim that the purpose of feminism is to open doors and break socially constructed barriers erected to maintain the patriarchal power structure and keep women out of the public sphere. They say nothing about hating men, only about an imbalance in the power structure of society. This challenge seems insurmountable. It is time to re-evaluate what the feminist movement stands for and find a less stigmatized vocabulary capable of describing the goals and purposes of the movement while at the same time maintaining an open and receptive audience in present-day society. Read more »

Non-sexist Language: The American Philosophical Association and Jennifer Mather Saul

Feminist discussions of gender neutrality in language have achieved some reform in spoken and written English language. Organizations like the American Philosophical Association (APA) provide guidelines to their members in the use of non-sexist language. Saul suggests similar strategies for creating gender-neutral language. This paper will discuss how the “Guidelines for Non-Sexist Use of Language” (Warren) call for concrete gender-neutral word choice and will identify where Saul’s discussion of gender-biased language differs in guidelines and in justifications.

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Guilty of Appropriation

Every summer I take my children camping with a group of homeschooler families. This year’s trip is to a 17th century reconstruction of an Iroquoian village. The trip includes observing a ‘day-in-the-life’, performances of traditional Native dance and storytelling, canoeing down the river and sleeping in a longhouse. The goal of the village is to preserve and educate people about Native culture. I have never been there but have compiled information based on the promotional materials provided by our group organizer, the village website and discussions with people who have visited the village in the past. A year ago I never would have questioned going along with the group and would have seen the opportunity as fun and exciting. Now I wonder if this would be cultural appropriation and if going on this trip perpetuates stereotypes of Canada’s indigenous peoples. Starhawk, in “Cultural Appropriation” writes, “we can experience and learn from a multiplicity of cultures and spiritual traditions” but that “issues of entitlement and authenticity need to be addressed” (201).

It would be simple to say that camping at a historic site is an educational opportunity. Read more »

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